India Suspects Iran Behind Attack on Israeli Diplomat


india-attack-new-delhiThe battle over Iran’s nuclear weapons programme reached India on Monday as an Israeli diplomat’s car was hit by a terror strike barely 200 metres from the official residence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The first open attack on an Israeli target in India coincided with an aborted strike against Israeli diplomats in Tbilisi, Georgia, pointing to a marked escalation of hostilities between the Shiite theocracy in Iran, which is defiant about pursuing its nuclear programme, and Israel, the US as well as the Sunni Arab world who are equally determined to stop it.

On Monday afternoon, a motorcycle-borne youth tailed an Israeli embassy vehicle on Aurangzeb Road in the high security zone in New Delhi, close to the PM’s residence, and allegedly placed “something” on the rear of the car when it stopped at a traffic signal at the intersection of Aurangzeb Road and Safdarjung Road in the Capital’s high-security zone.

Seconds later, there was an explosion and the Toyota Innova car, bearing registration number 109 CD 35, went up in flames. Three persons including the Israeli defence attache’s wife Tal Yehoshua Korene, who was going to pick up her children from the American Embassy School, were injured.

Investigators later got a crucial clue to the assailant in the footage from two CCTV cameras installed at industrialist Analjit Singh’s 15, Aurangzeb Road residence. The bomber, in brown jacket on a motor cycle, is seen tailing the embassy car at 3.10 pm at a distance of 2-3 seconds. The cameras could not capture the registration number of the bike.

The victim was in a critical condition, having suffered serious spinal injuries from shrapnel in the device that seemed to contain nitroglycerine.

The first terror strike involving the use of magnetic bomb mirrored the one that killed Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan on January 11, when a small magnetic bomb was planted on his vehicle by two terrorists on a motorcycle. Four Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in attacks in the past two years.

Indian authorities remained tight-lipped about the source of the attack.

However, Israel was categorical in blaming Iran. In an angry reaction, Israeli Prime MinisterBenjamin Netanyahu said, “Iran is behind these attacks; it is the largest exporter of terrorism in the world.” He further said, “In recent months, we have witnessed several attempts to attack Israeli citizens and Jews in several countries, including Azerbaijan, Thailand and others. Iranand its proxy Hezbollah were behind all of these attempted attacks.”

The charge was refuted by a foreign ministry spokesperson in Tehran. “We categorically reject the accusations made by the Zionist regime. They are part of a propaganda war,” the spokesperson said.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, Indian intelligence sources suspected an Iranian connection to the magnetic bomb attack which they feel could be a retaliation against the covert attempts to thwart the Shiite regime’s relentless pursuit of a nuclear programme which the West as well as Sunni Muslim countries are convinced is meant to equip the theocracy with nuclear weapons.

Sources also said Israel had recently confided in Indians their fears of Israeli targets coming under attack from Iranian sympathizers. Sources in Delhi Police did not rule out the possibility of Iranian sympathizers enlisting the modules of Lashkar, who despite their loathing of Shias, are unremitting in their animosity towards Israel.

In the past two years, four Iranian scientists have been mysteriously assassinated, 3 of them in attacks where motorcycle-borne assailants stuck magnetic bombs to their cars. The only one to survive the attacks targeting nuclear scientists so far is Fereydoun Abbasi, now the head of Iran’s atomic energy organization. He jumped away from his car seconds before it burst in November 2010. On the same day, another Iranian scientist, Majid Shahriari, was killed in an attack in Tehran. An attack in July 2011 killed an electronics student who some reports claimed was working on high-voltage switches.

In November 2011,17 elite Revolutionary Guards personnel including Maj Gen Hassan Moghaddam, believed to be head of Iran’s missile programme, died in an explosion at an Iranian missile base.

Besides, a computer virus Stuxnet attacked Iran’s centrifuges over the past year and half, sending many of them spinning out of control. While nobody is completely clear about the damage it has caused, it is generally believed that Stuxnet has delayed the Iranian programme significantly. Some experts recently claimed that the worm had attacked the Bushehr reactor which could suffer a meltdown once its fully operational.

Israel is also suspected to have infiltrated the network of suppliers from whom Iran could clandestinely source components for its nuclear programme. As a result, Iran have received defective supplies.

While the masterminds of the covert operations have successfully covered their tracks, Iran has held Israel and the US for the sabotage. Iran’s supreme religious leader Ali Khamenei has been quoted in reports saying that Iran would “support anybody globally who takes action against the Zionist entity”.

Last week, Yoram Cohen, head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, was quoted by Israeli mediaHaaretz as saying that Iran was working hard across the world through the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to hit Israeli targets. “Over the past year three serious attacks were thwarted that were on the verge of being carried out,” the Shin Bet head said. “In Turkey against the general consul in Istanbul; in Baku, Azerbaijan; and two weeks ago in Thailand.”

Reacting to the first alleged Iranian retaliatory strike on Indian soil, Alon Ushpiz, Israel ambassador told TOI, “This is a grave evening. Our hearts and minds are with this lady who is still undergoing surgery. It is inconceivable that the Iranian terrorist supporting regime will perpetrate this terror attack in the heart of New Delhi, the world’s largest democracy. We are grateful for cooperation and sympathy from the Indian leadership and we have full confidence in the Indian system.”

Foreign minister S M Krishna, who spoke to his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman, said, “India very strongly condemns such incidents and it is going to be fully investigated and the culprits will be brought to justice at the earliest. I have just spoken to the Israeli foreign minister and I have reassured the Israeli foreign minister that the law of the land will take its course. The investigation has already started and we will continue with it and then keep him posted as and when we get progress report of the investigation.”

In the aftermath of the suspected terror attack the Centre today ordered tightening of security in diplomatic missions, especially of Israel, the US and other western countries, located across the country.

Speaking in Tel Aviv last week, Shin Bet’s Cohen said that Iran believes Israel is behind the attacks on its nuclear experts, which have killed four scientists since November 2010. “It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not that Israel took out the nuclear scientists,” Cohen said. “A major, serious country like Iran cannot let this go on. They want to deter Israel and extract a price so that decision makers in Israel think twice before they order an attack on an Iranian scientist.”

Iran is locked in a global battle on its nuclear programme, which is opposed by almost everybody in the world. India and China, while not part of the current sanctions regime have also openly opposed the nuclear programme. India has voted three times against the Iranian programme in the IAEA, though it is against sanctions. Although Iran insists it is for peaceful purposes, few believe that this is anything but a military programme.

Western countries have slapped tough economic sanctions against Iran, including the main drivers of its economy, oil and gas. These sanctions have made it difficult for India to pay for the oil it imports from Iran. Iran has lashed out against the world on the sanctions, threatening to cut off the crucial Straits of Hormuz for oil supplies.While there has been continued speculation about US and Israeli attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities, the Sunni Arab world is ranged on the side of the US, urging them to attack Iran.

An unfazed Iran has declared that its determined to go ahead with its nuclear programme.

The thwarted assassination plot of a Saudi official in Washington, D.C., a couple of months ago was an important data point in that it showed at least parts of the Iranian establishment were aware of the intended event and were not concerned about inevitable collateral damage to US citizens had they carried out an assassination plot on American soil,” he added. The letter said that Israeli bulletins have warned that the country’s own passports might be used by terrorists to carry out the plot.

In other words, a full-scale covert war is being fought on the Iranian nuclear programme. Recent reports also alleged that Israel’s secret service was training Iranian dissidents linked to the terrorist Mojahedin Khalq Organization to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists. On Monday, this war reached India.

{Times of India/ Newscenter}